Monday, May 18, 2009

Little Rat makes Music By Monika Bang-Campbell illustrated by Molly Bang

This is the second Little Rat title in our library collection. We already have Little Rat sets sail.

In this newest book Little Rat wants to be a musician but she needs to learn the patience of practice and that the rewards of beautiful music take time. Her instrument is the violin and at first she is frustrated by the slow pace of her lessons.

The final chapter when Little Rat and her mentor Kitty take to the stage of the Community Hall is just magical. This is a tiny story with a heartwarming message.

I have always loved the work of Molly Bang - look for The paper crane in our library.

Upstairs mouse, downstairs Mole by Wong Herbert Yee

This simple little chapter book has four interconnected short stories about friendship, compromise, difference and acceptance. Mouse lives upstairs in a space filled with light and she delights in eating yummy cheese. Mole loves downstairs in a lovely damp, dark cave-like space and he delights in eating fresh worms.

Mouse and Mole want to be friends so they help each other with the chores and then try to repay the kindness by offering their own special hospitality. Of course neither is happy in the others environment but good manners prevent them from saying this. These two very different characters must find a way to stay friends. The final chapter sees them together enjoying a boat trip and learning how to help each other as they share one oar.

Fans of Frog is Frog by Max Velthuis will love this little collection.

How not to start third grade by Cathy Hapka and Ellen Titlebaum

This great little junior book is from the Step into reading series. Will is so happy to be starting third grade but his day is completely ruined by Steve, his baby brother, who is starting Kindergarten on the same day. The six little chapters in this 48 page book are called First-Day jitters, Off to a bad start, From bad to worse, From worse to horrible, Food Fight and A first day to remember.

This book is such a delight, it is funny, it is action packed and it is filled with situations and embarrassments that any young Primary child could relate to. Look out for How not to Babysit you brother by the same writing team.

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

If you love Junie B Jones and Clarice Bean and Judy Moody then you are going to really love the Clementine books. We have two in our library Clementine’s Letter and The Talented Clementine.

Clementine is a third grader who has a heart of gold, she is constantly in a muddle, loves drawing and finds most rules, especially at school, very puzzling. Clementine is a regular visitor to the Principal’s office. Mrs Rice is a wonderful school Principal, she listens to Clementine and offers very helpful suggestions and strategies to help Clementine cope with change.

In The Talented Clementine, she is in despair because the children are putting on a talent show and Clementine is convinced she has no special talents. She does try tap dancing by gluing bottle caps on her shoes but this of course does not work. On the night of the concert we all get a huge surprise - Clementine does have a talent!

Back to those tap shoes. Her dad is the building supervisor for the apartment building. “He just lets them keep the beer in the basement. And all those beers come in bottles. With bottle caps. I got a pair of pliers from the workbench. Let me tell you, it is N-O-T, not easy to get twenty four bottle caps off with a pair of pliers, but finally I did it…. All the while I kept smiling whenever I thought about how happy everyone would be next week at the meeting because their bottles had already been opened.”

In Clementine’s Letter the class teacher is in line to win a trip to Egypt. He will be gone for the rest of the year. Clementine is in despair. She loves her teacher, they have developed strategies that really help Clementine to stay on task and now she has to cope with a substitute. She is convinced Mr D’Matz will not leave “Nope, sorry Mrs Rice, I can’t go away for the rest of the year because I promised to be here.” Then Clementine realises he might win the competition. She has some power though when all the class are invited to write letters of support. Clementine really lays it on the line about why her teacher should not go to Egypt and leave her.

One theme through the two books is names. A clementine is a citrus fruit. Clementine thinks her baby brother should be named after a vegetable if she has to be named after a fruit. We never get to know his real name because Clementine calls him carrot, spinach and radish and many other hilarious names.

Look for Clementine in our library these books are winners! and go to Sara Pennypacker's web site it is marvelous - she is the author of Stuart's Cape and Stuart goes to school. We even have a collection of ties in our library as a celebration of this inventive little story.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Rules has at it’s heart a very difficult subject – a sibling with a disability in this case autism. This, however, should not deter you from picking up this beautifully written, sensitive and humorous story.

Catherine, our narrator, is twelve and all she wants is a normal life. This seems impossible at school, at the shops, in social situations and even in her own family with a brother like David who has autism. Catherine has spent years trying to teach David the rules of life… ‘chew with your mouth closed’, ‘sometimes people laugh when they like you. But sometimes they laugh to hurt you’ and finally the most important rule of all ‘No toys in the fish tank.’

David loves the story of Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel and even though he is now too old for this story, he recites the text word for word quoting snatches of dialogue between frog and toad. The familiar words of this much loved story are a comfort to David in this world of confusion.

Life for Catherine consists of a new and potential friend next door Kristi, the school bully Ryan who seems to be friends already with Kristi and her blossoming friendship with Jason, who is a boy locked into a wheelchair, unable to speak. It is Jason who brings a layer of real humanity and humility to this story. Catherine also has two pet guinea pigs!

While this is not a book for everyone, I really enjoyed it and would think it would appeal to students in Senior Primary classes. Other books with a similar theme in our school library include I Nigel Dorking, A corner of the Universe by Ann Martin, Wish by Felice Arena and Looking for X by Deborah Ellis.

Finally this is another one of those books from Scholastic with extras at the back including an interview with the author.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Finding books to read

There are heaps of web sites around that give you lists of books to explore. Here is one I found today called The Reading Tub. You can select an age group and then explore titles. There is also a link to their blog which makes interesting reading.

The site does not seem to have an author search which is a pity and I found all the titles that started with "the" were in 'T'.

Another place to look for books is Spaghetti Book Club. Here is another one to look at - it is good to see the book covers. Perhaps you can recommend some books for our school library.

Finally here is one from New Zealand - you just click on a heading that interests you. I was happy to see Momo on this list of European titles too good to miss....

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Diego, run! by Deborah Ellis

Some books just read like movies. I have no idea how an author does this but I have just finished Diego, run! by Deborah Ellis and I feel like I have watched an incredibly gripping movie with chase scenes, jungles, crime, poverty, gaols and guns all set in exotic Boliva. This is not a book for young Primary children, I would only recommend it to Year 6, as it does deal with illegal drugs and the criminals who make them. For fans of Robert Muchamore, this thriller will certainly be another winner.

Diego, aged 12, lives in a prison with his mother and sister, he is free to come and go but his mother has thirteen years still to serve for a crime she did not commit. Diego helps his family by working as a ‘human taxi’ doing small errands for the gaol inmates but disaster strikes when his sister wanders away from his care which is totally against the rules of the gaol. Diego is lured away by his friend Mando on a promise of easy money, made quickly. Diego is suspicious but also desperate to help his mother, so he finds himself caught up in the illegal manufacture of cocaine with vicious criminals deep in the Bolivian jungle.

There is an excellent authors note at the end of this book along with a glossary of Spanish terms. Children might not notice this extra information but I would encourage parents to read this book and then talk about the author note which puts illegal drugs into a context.

Look for other books by Canadian author Deborah Ellis in your library. I enjoyed all of them – Parvana, The Heaven Shop and Looking for X although I would add all are for Senior Primary only. Now I need to start the sequel Diego’s Pride.